Thursday, November 17, 2011

6 Degrees of Separation

You are, I'm sure, being the erudite and learned souls that flock to this blog, well aware of the concept of 6 degrees of separation. The 'my-plumber-that-knows-his-postman's-wife's-cousin'-sister-that-has-a-hairdresser-who-does-Madonna's-hair' sort of thing.....had to count dincha?....implying that we are only six 'clicks' - if you will - away from anyone famous.
Well, I have a few 'clicks' of my own.
First off, my cousin happens to be Robert Thirsk the Canadian Astronaut that was Canada's 4th astronaut in the expanded space program and also spent 6 months on the orbiting space station. That should give some of you your own  position in this (silly) game. If you know of Bob. Or care. And if you're Canadian you should....but I digress.
However! And this is the biggie, at least artistically speaking, I actually got to see and be in the presence of a famous 'Group of Seven' work of art and was friends with the grandson of the artist when I was a young woman. We are not speaking in a gallery or anything here, but in some one's ordinary home. Like '3 inches away from my devouring eyes' near.
This reminiscence comes about from doing some research last night for our local 'Wild Pacific Trail Society' a very awesome and not-to-be-missed walking trail out here that hugs the coastline right along the rugged terrain we live in. They have recently added a part to the trail they call 'The Artists Loop' where they have put in some great bump outs and viewpoints with an artist in mind for sketching or painting at these locations. I happened to mention that they may want to add to this loop by adding plaques detailing the famous artists who have travelled here to paint. They emailed me asking if I'd expand on my topic  and so I did some trolling on the Internet and this is what I found:
Our most famous and BC born alumni of the Group of Seven - Emily Carr - came
up here (Ucluelet) often. As a matter of fact, it was the Nuu-chal-Nuuth people who
gave her the name of 'Klee Wick'. She painted watercolor sketches of the
original first nations village that was here and Matterson House has copies
of those on their wall. I believe it was her that introduced the others in the 'group'
to this part of the world.
FH Varley lived in Vancouver for many years and as such you can believe that
he would have travelled with his buddies Lismer and AY Jackson when they
came over here to paint. What you need to realize about artists is that they
don't always make paintings from their sketches or what they see. Who knows,
they all might have just drank themselves silly and gone fishing.
Arthur Lismer did come out here very often to paint and there are paintings
of his from around here. But his favourite spot was Long Beach. That doesn't
give this any less importance because all of them had to take the boat from
Port to get here and it landed at Whiskey Dock. I'm kind of sad the Park beach no
longer has 'Lismer Cove' as a name anymore.
Lawren Harris moved to Vancouver in 1940 but he went into painting abstracts
then. although he probably came out here because of his old ties with
Varley, Lismer and Jackson. Artists are a pretty close group.
AY Jackson was Lismer's great pal and he did go out on painting trips with
him. The paintings he did though tend to be of the north island - Prince
Rupert etc.
JEH MacDonald - not too much info on him and from what I see he tended to
mainly paint the east environs. Same with Frank Johnston and Franklin
Carmichael. I think what needs to be pointed out in the brochure is that
these great names of our cultural history did travel out here and they
walked on the dock and up Main Street to continue on to the beach or just
spend some time before travelling further.
I also went looking for their paintings to see which ones could be tied to this area. And when doing so found the painting that heads this post :
"Vera" by Frederick Horseman Varley.
That painting hung in the home of FH's grandson, Christopher, who was my - at the time - boyfriend's good buddy. We would go over to his home often. Anyway, 'Vera' always caught my eye and - being as I was a fairly naive and unhip girl - I was completely unaware that it was so famous. The actual 'Vera' was Chris's mom.
How close we all are to the breath of fame. I'll guarantee by mentioning this story you will have the person you're speaking to tell his/her own tale of 6 degrees.
Hands across the water, folks.

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